Musings from the SDSU Writers Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the SDSU Writers Conference for the first time this past weekend. I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing experience it was and how much I learned. I was so engaged in the experience that I was physically and mentally exhausted (in a good way) at the end of each day.

The SDSU Writers Conference is in its 28th year and held annually in San Diego. The Conference offers workshops, networking with editors and agents, and opportunities to schedule advanced reading and consultation appointments with said editors and agents.

My friend and writer, Margaret Dilloway (How to Be an American Housewife), found her first agent at the Writers Conference several years ago. I asked Margaret for advice as a newbie Conference attendee. She said take advantage of the workshops and talk to the editors. She could not have been more right!

Let me tell you a few things I learned about myself at the Writers Conference.

I knew nothing about the basic elements and structure of writing stories. Although I’ve been writing for what seems like forever, my technical training is journalism-based. I never took English or Creative Writing classes in college; as such I had no knowledge of basic elements of story structure. The conference taught me about plot points, point of view, character development, writing in five parts; essentially the basics for writing a compelling story. I’m sure this is why I was struggling with how to begin writing a novel-length story.

I need to improve my “show, don’t tell” writing. Again, I think this comes from my “just the facts” journalism background. I’m certainly more conscious of it now and have some great techniques to identify it in my writing.

Editors and publishers want writers with a platform. I’ve been reading about this more and more. But hearing it from editors, agents and speakers really drove the point home. Those of us who blog and tweet are building an audience. The publishers want to know there are people that will buy your book. This is why I encourage all writers to start a blog, even if it has nothing to do with their book. It’s networking in the digital age.

How else did I benefit from the Writers Conference?

I now have a very clear idea how to write my novel and what needs to be included in every scene. I also learned awesome editing techniques. While I’m an excellent copyeditor for others, it’s a struggle to edit my own work.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the Conference … I met with an agent who pre-read my children’s story. She gave me some feedback and is interested in seeing it again for possible representation!

This blog post is just the beginning. I need to comb through my pages upon pages of notes; review business cards I collected; visit websites that were mentioned; connect with the speakers online; and make revisions to my children’s story. But right now, I’m still reflecting on the amazing experience that was the SDSU Writers Conference.

What discoveries have you made about your own writing? Have you attended writing conferences or workshops that completely opened your mind?

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